Stretching in Place


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Hank Shaw making pasta.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I don’t know about you, but I am looking for a silver lining to all this. And I think I’ve found one.

Many of you reading this are under orders to “shelter in place,” or some version of that. Stay home, keep your distance from others, etc. In some places, even the outdoors is being restricted. I’m not going to lie: I’ve been more than a little down about it, not to mention the loss of my friend, Ragnar the Cat.

Until last month, I hadn’t realized how much I really needed to be around my fellow humans; I had considered myself vaguely anti-social, before the world as we knew it ended a few weeks ago. Apparently not. But the reason I thought of myself that way was because I really, truly enjoy puttering in my kitchen alone, tinkering.

This is the silver lining. This may well be the best time in your life to learn new skills in the kitchen (and elsewhere, for that matter). We’re cooped up. We’re more or less forced to cook all our meals at home, although I will say as a side note that if you’re a regular at a locally owned restaurant, it is vital that you support them during these tough times.

Before you jump into something with both feet, do yourself the favor of sitting on your porch or living room or wherever, with relaxing music or nothing at all, and just thinking about who you want to be on the back end of all this, at least from a culinary perspective.

Do you want to finally become a decent baker? Learn to pickle things? Cure meat? Make tortillas from scratch? Nail that broth you’ve been playing with over the years?

Think about some kitchen skill you don’t fully possess, or possess at all, and think about starting your journey toward mastery of that skill.

I do this, to varying degrees, all the time. It’s become my job. Part of my mission here at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook is to learn new skills that are useful in the worlds of hunting, fishing, gathering, gardening and cooking, and to then pass them on to you as best as I am able.

A stack of homemade flour tortillas
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Most recently, I spent hours and hours and hours learning how to make both flour tortillas and corn tortillas from scratch. I’ve done my 10,000 hours cooking duck breasts, and making pasta, butchering wild game and fish, and curing meat.

I’ve made wine for almost 30 years. I’ve recently starting brewing more beer. I know how to make vinegar, ferment vegetables and make fresh sausages.

I tell you all this not to thump my chest, but to offer you my services if these skills are something you want to acquire. Every link above leads to tutorials I’ve worked very hard on, and every day I answer questions from you, on a sometimes dizzying array of topics, either here, or on Instagram or the Hunt Gather Cook group I run on Facebook.

It doesn’t matter if you’re inept in the kitchen or a Michelin-starred chef, we all can learn new things that will make us better cooks on the other side of this weirdness. If you are a chef reading this, there is no better time for research and development. I know. Your business has been crippled. It may not survive. But you will. Tinkering in the kitchen will, at the very least, take your mind off this disaster and give you something positive to hang onto.

If you’re not a chef, the same applies, really. Pull that Italian cookbook off the shelf and read it, again or for the first time. You’ll not only be taken to a faraway land, but you will also see that Italian food is, in many cases, perfect for times like these. A few ingredients, treated well, presented simply.

Duck sugo recipe in a bowl
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

And it’s not just the Italians. The Greeks are masters of simplicity, as are the Scandinavians. And as elaborate as a Oaxacan mole might be, Mexican food hinges on simple, basic staples like corn, beans, squash, tomatoes and chiles.

It’s spring. Time to garden. Maybe expand your garden this year. I did. Or start one. Grow more of your own vegetables, varieties you can’t get at the farmer’s market or store. Plant a fruit or nut tree. Start composting. Feel the earth between your fingers.

Miner's lettuce growing in a crack on a raised bed
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

All of these things are positive, productive tasks you can do while stuck in semi-isolation. They will take your mind off the grim realities of life under the Dread Disease and propel you forward, giving you purpose while you — and I — wait this out.

And when it’s all over, you’ll be a better person because of it. And I’m here to help you get there.

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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  1. Hey Hank, You are the greatest. Thanks so much for all your good words and tutorials. What a good heart and an amazing resource you are. Best, best, best in every way. paul in bessemer, al

  2. Good morning thank you for the great reading it is a joy for me to read your stories and recipes please keep going and stay safe.

  3. To add to your solitude treatise: take this time to mentor your school aged children on skills Hank lists in this article, or similar. Take something you love and are skilled at and pass it on in as much detail as they care to absorb. Learning through apprenticeship is as old as humanity, but rarely observed in modern western culture. Now is your chance!

  4. One of the first things I did in this quarantine was to build a tortilla press and make your tortilla recipe.

  5. Thanks for your inspiring words. It has taken me this many weeks to get my head wrapped around this new way of life. But this morning, I feel on track … Laundry is on the line, my day started with learning German instead of jumping to headline news, dogs walked, etc. It definitely helps that the sun is shining and the forecasted high is near 60.
    I do want to jump into my unread books but I also want to get outside and manage my wood lot a bit.
    Always lots to do!
    Thanks for your reminder to take time to learn new things. Training your brain to focus instead of being distracted is important!
    Sorry about your kitty. It’s never easy to say goodbye! I hope you find peace in your heart soon.

  6. Sorry for your loss Hank. And thank you for the excellent tutorials, books and pep talks.

    You inspired me several years ago to expand my skills with game meat and I’m working on mastering the ability to look in my freezer and know exactly what I’m going to do with each cut of venison/hog/fish in there. Slightly intimidating because I don’t want to waste any of it while experimenting. Which is how I’ve gotten into a rut with my game meat. But this is an opportunity to broaden those horizons again.

  7. Hi. I’m planning on increasing my garden to accommodate pole beans. Do you think that this is a worthy endeavour? Weighing the cost of purchase beans at grocery store compared to the time to harvest, save and the space required might be better allocated.

    1. Lisa: Yes, I plant pole beans every year. Pole beans are great because they grow vertically, so they don’t take a lot of space, relatively speaking.

  8. Good morning!

    First…I am very sorry for the loss of your cat. Mine provide me with a great deal of comfort, laughs and love. I have lost a few over the years and each one is a heartbreaker.

    Second…Thanks for the nudge to make better use of the quarantine! I have always wanted to learn to can game meat and was given a pressure cooker a decade ago for just that purpose. I think it’s time I finally take it out of the box and learn to use it! 🙂

    Stay healthy!


  9. I am so grateful, you have taken my skill level to such great heights. I especially appreciate what you taught me about mesquite beans. I now have introduced them to friends, and next year plan on expanding, I make flour, pepper dust, syrup, jelly, and several infused liquors, from them. My bee hives are being moved to mesquite groves, because Mesquite being jelly continually wins the Texas state fair. Also I have learned to go nose to tail with almost everything I kill and cook. During this time when we all have to covey up, You are an inspiration.

  10. Hey Frank.
    Keep on doing what you do, as you are an inspiration in the best of times, never mind with how things are currently.
    Your posts are always informative, (even if not always relevant to U.K.), and your enthusiasm is a real fillip.
    Keep well, Chas.

  11. Thank you for this Hank. You and people like you are the silver lining to all of this. If the current calamity brings us closer to the earth, closer to what nourishes our minds and our bodies, then perhaps some of the changes that are inevitable will be positive changes.

  12. Mr. Shaw,
    thank you for inspiring all of us to stay strong and to involve ourselves to occupy our selves doing things we have always wanted to do but claimed not to have the time
    I am looking forward to find a Posole verde recipe that I may master during this time. This is something I have been wanting to learn and will do so. Thank you.

  13. Often we need that rare uninterrupted and quiet solitude for a period to focus and concentrate on a new skill or improving a current one. Those of us with busy lives full of family, friends, and work always say: “Well, one day, someday…”. The current pandemic’s lockdown and social distancing provides a great opportunity for that “One day, some day” time. Thanks for the inspiration: I made a list and I am going to get going on it.

  14. Great job Hank and thanks for keeping the posts coming. This is exactly what we all need – in the UK the situation is pretty dire but even as frontline we need distractions and ideas to do or dream of when this is over.
    Please keep up the great work and stay positive – (working through a freezer of last winter birds And your great duck book is keeping me sane and away from the stores)